Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
I starting watching the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" last night. (I haven't finished yet, so don't spoil the ending for me.) Filmed in 1967, it's the story of a white 23-year-old woman who brings home a 37-year-old black man as her fiancee to parents who aren't especially happy about the situation. Additionally, they have known each other for 10 days, and are planning on getting married shortly.
It's interesting to speculate about whether there would be similarities or differences in the reactions of her parents today, 40 years later. In some families, I think there would be a huge difference and the parents would not have trouble with the racial disparity between the two; in some families, the reaction would be the same as 40 years ago. When you add on the age difference and the fact that they have known each other all of 10 days, then I can imagine most parents would be a bit upset about such a situation.
My parents have always been extremely open-minded. Growing up, I had friends of all differents faiths, races and backgrounds. My best friend in high school and college was a black girl who considered my father the dad she didn't really have (she had a very difficult relationship with her own father). Whoever I brought home was welcomed warmly. My parents always taught me that it was WHO the person was that counted rather than the color of their skin. I even worked for a number of years in an organization whose mission was race relations and diversity awareness. I feel very fortunate to have learned such lessons from my parents.
One of the things I found interesting about the movie was the fact that the woman, "Joey," doesn't see any reason why her parents should have issues with the racial differences between herself and her intended spouse. Because, even with being open-minded, it still is an issue. I think it's blind to pretend that society, especially in 1967, would have absolutely no problem with an inter-racial couple. Today, things are very different, but there are still implications and difficulties with such a relationship.
I actually encountered a similar situation a while back. A guy was suggested for me - religious, well-educated, good personality, stable job history. All the makings of a good shidduch. Except that he was black. Part of the reason that he was suggested to me was that my friends knew that if anyone was open-minded enough to even consider it, it was me.
I took the suggestion seriously, and gave it a lot of thought. In an Orthodox Jewish community, the racial difference is unfortunately not something that can be completely ignored. I thought a lot about the implications and the reactions that would most likely be received. Personally, I didn't think it would be such a problem for myself - I don't care that much about what people think and if they disapproved of such a pair, they aren't the kind of people I would want to associate with anyway. And I didn't think that any of my friends would have such problems, because again if they would, they are not the kind of people I tend to be friends with.
The thing that did trouble me about the situation was the thought of what my children would have to go through. I knew that there would be challenges and they would have to deal with the difficulties of the decision I had made. But I hoped that I would be able to raise children strong enough to deal with such challenges (though I am still not sure it's easy to give children that strength at the young ages they would have to deal with it).
Anyway, ultimately my decision was that the racial difference wasn't enough to stop me from dating someone who sounded like he had solid character. In the end, obviously, things didn't work out. But I'm glad I was forced to deal with the issue, and I'm happy that something external, under which a person has no control, didn't stand in my way.